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WANTED – 50 female engineering graduates (and 50 male ones)…, Iain Coucher, CEO

Rebecca, Graduate, 2018

Iain Coucher, AWE’s CEO, shares his thoughts on International Women in Engineering Day (InWED).


Today is International Women in Engineering Day (InWED) – a global celebration of the outstanding contribution made by women in the field of engineering. It is part of a campaign to raise awareness of the opportunities for long, interesting, challenging and rewarding STEM careers available to women.

Each year, around 46,000 people graduate in engineering in the UK, of which 15%, roughly 7,500, are women. It is believed that there is an annual demand for around 86,000 engineering graduates. This deficit shows gender parity could be achieved and there would still be demand for more.

For nearly 70 years, AWE has been at the forefront of nuclear weapons research and development. AWE plays a pivotal role in the defence of the UK, providing technology and services to support the Continuous At-Sea Deterrence (CASD). Every one of the 5,500 women and men at AWE is proud to be part of such an important company.

AWE employs around 2,500 scientists, engineers, technologists – people who are involved in some of the most exciting, ground-breaking, important and technically challenging work – using some of the most advanced lasers, x-ray machines, research facilities and computing technology to further our understanding of the science behind nuclear weapons; people deploying the most advanced manufacturing equipment to produce components and products of the most demanding standards. We construct facilities that are unique and complex, that enable AWE to undertake its activities in a way that ensures the safety of all its employees and the communities in which we work.

I am always in constant amazement of the achievement of all of our people – women and men alike.

AWE recruits around 200 graduates a year – many of which will be scientists and engineers. We will likely be looking for around 100 engineering graduates a year and we have a target of recruiting new graduates with an equal gender split.

So, AWE is looking for 50 female engineering graduates – just 50 out of the 7,500 women that graduate every year. How hard can that be, given the unique and exciting opportunities at AWE? And the same applies to our apprenticeship scheme – we are looking for around 60 women and 60 men each year.

All of us with the opportunity to influence should ask ourselves – are we doing everything that we can do to make engineering careers attractive to women? And if not, why not? What do we need to do to increase awareness at schools? Are we looking at our working environment, our policies, our behaviours and our culture that may be a discouragement to women?

Employing more women engineers can help to provide the role models necessary to inspire the next generation of young women to study engineering at university. That’s why gender parity is so important to us at AWE.

I have had a long and varied career in engineering – covering defence, IT, technology and infrastructure. I have worked with many, many brilliant and outstanding female engineers – people, like me, that want to make a difference – that want to point to something and say: “I was part of making that happen.”

Happy International Women in Engineering Day!